Performance Composition Methodology

Deb Margolin’s Performance Composition: Writing and Embodying

Margolin’s Artistic Statement or, a Performance Manifesto

In her Performance Composition syllabus, undated, Margolin describes her goals for the class as well as assignments and classroom culture and learning activities. However, her syllabus reads more like a manifesto, or an artist’s statement, for her performance composition approach and creative practice. In this exhibit, Margolin’s Performance Composition syllabus is used as a the centerpiece of her artistic methodology for conceptualizing compositions for performance.

These pages of her syllabus sketch an infrastructure for performative writing and practicing theater as an actor through the performative writing one creates; while the document was originally intended for her students, within the archival Deb Margolin Collection this writing projects a personal methodology and performative approach constructed by Margolin, which is situated here as the foundation of the exhibit’s function to explore Margolin’s process.

Margolin outlines the importance of viewing the significance of words as creators of action in performance; within the collection and this exhibit, her writing exists statically on the page. She articulates performative writing as a genre that is intended to collide with the body, but that first must be composed and primed by the writer for the physical embodiment of the actor.

Automatic Writing

The writer accomplishes this through Margolin’s favored automatic writing technique, which is to write without inhibitions, without any revision or pre-meditation, and continually without stopping. Automatic writing will yield surprises, it will be banal and it will be nonsensical, maybe. All of these variables encourage the performance student to privilege the stories, images and ideas that arise from within them without their self-conscious judgement or policing. In this way, performative writing is produced by an unhindered process of tapping into a semi-conscious realm; it is from here that a subject may emerge from seemingly nowhere. Margolin is committed to this method, because automatic writing forces subjectivity to bracket writerly composition. The writer’s unsolicited subject-matter encourages the performance actor to tether themselves to the words, ideas, images, and experience of the writing and therefore produce a desire in this ownership of the writing. The actor’s desire shapes the writing into a performative composition; this is the embodiment of the composition.

For the Margolin actor, embodying the composition beyond memorizing the lines you’ve written for yourself or the monologue that feels like a memory is the desire to speak the composition into your performance. Writing, the composing of the composition, is the realization of your desire, the subject of your composition, to be performed by the embodiment.

Margolin promises her students that by realizing their own potential to find performance in any place, from nowhere, performance composition will become for them a practice that is infinitely accessible.